Tuesday Trade Review: Thornton to San Jose

Joe Thornton Sharks
(Dustin Bradford/Icon SMI)

The Background

In the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, a young Canadian by the name of Joe Thornton was selected first overall by the Boston Bruins. Many years later he would become a highly skilled playmaker and one of the top-50 points getters in NHL history. But, he didn’t reach this success without a change of scenery along the way.

After being the team captain for the Bruins for a several years, Thornton was heavily criticized by the Boston fan base after an early and disappointing playoff exit in 2004. They said that he was unable to escalate his play in the postseason and was a big reason to why the Bruins had limited success in seven-game series’. At this same time, Thornton claimed that he was not happy with the state of the team but still signed a three-year, $20 million deal during the lockout despite being a restricted free agent.

Patrick Marleau
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

In the West, the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a hole early in the 2005-2006 campaign. Even though they were coming off their best season to date– a season that brought them all the way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals– the Sharks were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and were poised to fall far behind in the playoff race. In a desperate attempt to save the season, San Jose made a blockbuster deal. On November 30, 2005, the Sharks dealt Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart to Boston in exchange for Thornton.

Outcome: Boston

The Bruins obtained a number of players for their roster in the past decade because of this trade. First, the New England club gained the three former Sharks that were part of the original deal. Sturm recorded a respectable 193 points in 302 games but suffered a number of injuries while with the team. He was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Kings for future considerations after he tore both his ACL and MCL in 2010. Meanwhile, Primeau and Stuart failed to make any significant impact for the squad and were traded to the Calgary Flames in 2007 for Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference.

(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

These two new additions played a much more important role for the Bruins. Kobasew acheived 84 points in 158 games and Ference was a vital part of Boston’s blue line during their 2011 Stanley Cup run. The defenseman then became part of the leadership group, playing the part of a shared alternate captaincy the following season.

Unfortunately for the team, both of these skaters left the club with the Bruins getting almost nothing in return so far. Kobasew was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Craig Weller, a 2011 second rounder (which became Alexander Khokhlachev), and the rights to prospect Alexander Fallstromon in 2009. These three skaters have totaled four games played with the franchise, all of them being by Khokhlachev. On the other hand though, Ference signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013, meaning Boston let him go for nothing.

Outcome: San Jose

 (Photo by Herman Von Petri).
(Photo by Herman Von Petri).

Unlike Boston’s side of the story, San Jose’s results are much more straightforward; the Sharks got Joe Thornton in 2005 and still have him today. Since he joined Team Teal, Thornton has become on of the top players to play in the bay. He was team captain for three years, won two olympic gold medals with Team Canada, and has become of the greatest point-getters in league history. Jumbo is currently ranked 36th all time in scoring in the NHL and possesses the second most points by any Shark since the teams’ inception in 1991, behind only Patrick Marleau.

Not only is Thornton good himself, but he makes his linemates better as well. With his exceptional passing skill, the former captain is largely responsible for Jonathan Cheechoo’s 56-goal season and Joe Pavelski’s 41-goal year. This man is a possession beast and makes spectacular plays in the offensive zone. He may very well be the greatest hockey player in San Jose history.

The Winner

*(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
*(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

San Jose wins this trade fairly easily, but it’s not as lopsided as many perceive it to be. Boston got killed in the original trade as Sturm was the only player to have moderate success with the team. However, by obtaining both Kobasew and Ference as an indirect result of this deal, the Bruins’ return looks a little more respectable. But it ultimately doesn’t compare with Thornton’s success. The five skaters who have played for the B’s due to the trade have recorded a total of 448 points in 1037 games played (0.43 points per game) while earning a combined plus/minus of minus-8. Thornton has 791 points in 732 games as a Shark (1.08 points per game) and has a plus-151 rating. Sturm, Kobasew, and Ference were good in Boston, but they weren’t Joe-Thornton-in-San-Jose good. And even though Ference may have won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins, his impact does not compare with the skill of Thornton. The Sharks emerged victorious in this trade.




20 thoughts on “Tuesday Trade Review: Thornton to San Jose”

  1. So it seems like the prominent arguments in the comments (that aren’t already in the article) are this:

    For Boston Winning – Trading Thornton freed up cap space to sign Chara in the offseason and the team has won a cup since the deal.

    For San Jose Winning – Boston drafted well and were able to supplement their stars with depth players, something that SJ has not done. Thornton and the Sharks would have succeeded more if they had the depth the Bruins had.

    Great debate everybody, let’s keep up the conversation!

  2. STATISTICALY the Sharks are winners. However, Thornton still disappears in the playoffs along with his long-time buddy Marleau. Boston’s original complaint about Thornton’s poor playoff performance has been spot on with very few exceptions.

    Thornton and Marleau could very well be in one of their last “good” years as Sharks. It’s a shame to see the team floundering (pun intended) the way it is.

    • fire wilson is just a bad take. I mean the guy has clearly shown he can build a Cup contender. Now he will show what he can do through a rebuild. he has earned the right to show what he can do. There is one other GM, Ken Holland, who can say he put a Cup contender out there year in and year out. Detroit was bordering on bad for a couple of seasons recently, now they are among the top again. Who says Wilson cannot do that?

      Wilson enumerate his plan for the off-season and he delivered on all of them. So how can ownership not give him a chance? When you take responsibility and accountability and then deliver on them and stay true to the direction, of course they will stay with him as well they should. Two words why you do not fire Doug Wilson: Dean Lombardi…It will happen all over again. Wilson will win a Cup with another team.

  3. Mr. H and you, Mr. Weber are completely, 100% totally wrong. Boston won this trade – and it’s not even close. The goal is the Cup. Do you understand that? It’s not so you can win 40-50 regular season games and say, “Look! We’re good, too!” San Jose already had that. The Cup is the goal. You win by winning the Cup. That’s what matters. Boston got rid of Thornton and won it. San Jose is still stuck with him – never having even advanced to the Finals.

    • They are not 100% wrong. If you look at it from a checkers perspective, player for players, the Sharks unequivocally won the trade, they got the best player who has gone to have an even better career. years later the bruins constructed a different team and won a Cup. It benefited both teams in the long run. To say they are wrong about who won the trade is incorrect. People have opinions and if they are looking at something from one view and can make a cogent case, that makes their point a true statement.

  4. Again, statistically, the Sharks are the clear winners here. However, Boston’s “win” was more “addition by subtraction” if you will. Boston realized that as talented as Joe is/was, he couldn’t be a centerpiece of a championship winning team. They dumped Joe and went on to win The Cup shortly after, which was their goal. The Sharks got a great regular season/playoff first round player, but have never seen the same success in the playoffs that they had prior to Joe coming to the team. So, if you view “winning” as having great regular season box scores and consecutive playoff appearances (all ending in disappointment), then yes, The Sharks “won” that trade by a huge margin.

  5. I just want to thank everybody for the great conversation and input. The cap space implication definitely changes the look of this trade if the Bruins dealt Thornton in part to sign Chara. I believe they picked up $5.2 million in cap with the three players but dumped $6.6 million with losing Thornton, so a net of opening up $1.4 million in cap. I’m not sure what Boston’s cap situation was in 2006 before they signed Chara, but if that $1.4 million gave them just enough to sign him then you can definitely put that in the argument for the Bruins winning the trade.

    Thank you for the reads everybody, keep up the conversation!

  6. If you look at this like a checkers game, Sharks clearly won that trade that’s not even debatable. however, if you realize trades and moves are really more like chess, Boston was able to subsequently as a result of the trade sign Chara and sign Marc Savard. Savard actually had similar stats to that of Thornton until concussions ruined his career or more specifically Matt Cooke..Bruins was able to upgrade assets in kobasew and Ference. AND the greatest indictment is that the Bruins won a Cup. The Sharks got a Hall of Fame player who made the Sharks one of the best teams in the NHL since he was acquired. SHARKS have been unable to surround him with the right pieces. You can win a Cup with Thornton. He just can’t be your leader. Basically The Montreal series got Thornton run out of Boston, zero points in 7 games and a blown 3-1 series lead…but I believe he had a bad shoulder that was not revealed until the playoffs ended. He plays hurt…he is a beast, he just can’t lead.

  7. Actually…not even close. The Bruins were able to free cap space which turned the franchise completely around. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup, while Thornton was exactly what the Bruins pegged him to be, a regular season hero. The Sharks have done nothing since this trade. He is a good player, but not clutch. Bruins got guys like Chara and Savard, who are clutch players.

    • The sharks have done nothing since the trade? have you watched hockey over the last decade? Sharks have been among the elite in the west and have built Cup contending teams…the goal is to win a Cup, but the first step is to build a team that can compete. It is completely ignorant to say the Sharks have not done anything. They have won at higher clip than Boston, made the playoffs more times, won more playoff series. Thornton also has at times been a dominant playoff player. He has taken over series, he has clearly been the best player on the ice, he just has never sustained that all of the way through, as teams progress, the toplines start to cancel each other out and the depth players need to make things happen. For people to consider Thornton only a regular season player is incorrect. Has he been clutch? No, Has he been productive in the playoffs? yes. Look at who the Bruins drafted the year after they traded Thornton: Kessel; Lucic and Marchand. Kessel eventually flipped for Seguin. You put those players around Thornton they are still vying for a Cup. The Bruins wanted to tank and free up space. They got a top 5 pick and they made some key signings and some late picks panned out for them.

      • You hit it on the head Drew with the “at times been dominant”. The inconsistency of the Sharks is maddening. Nobody can explain how they beat the best teams and lose to the worst. It’s the apparent lack of motivation that make people say “fire Wilson”. That’s just the knee-jerk reaction. I don’t know what the answer is. The team has skill, the coaches are good, so what the hell is going on?

  8. Once the Bruins got rid of Thorton, they were able to sign Zdeno Chara. He’s since led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup. Thornton, on the other hand, has consistently underachieved in the clutch. If you think the Bruins are worse off since dumping Thornton, you’ve been following stats and not the game of hockey. Getting rid of Thornton has enabled the Bruins to be contenders every year since his departure.

    • Chara alone did not lead them to the Cup, look at who the Bruins drafted after he was traded. Put those pieces around Thornton and you may have the same result. No one said the bruins have been worse off, it was stated the Sharks won the trade which can be easily argued that they did. Bruins could have been contenders with Thornton too, just as the Sharks have been.

  9. I know Joe has been a great player, however, I am not sure you can call San Jose a winner. This trade set in motion some moves crucial to the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup. The Sharks even with Joe have never one the cup and that is what is ultimately looked as the bench mark. So San Jose can have Joe and his great numbers, but until he wins a cup in San Jose, the move worked out much much better for the Bruins.

    • San Jose won the trade, Boston struck first in winning the War. It is not easy to build an elite team that year after year competes for a Cup. San jose has come up short, but people should not be dismissive of how good the Sharks have been for as long as they have. They were good before Thornton got there, he just took them to another level. Unfortunately it has not been the ultimate level.

  10. No matter how you slice it, this trade definitely favors SJ. However, JT is somewhat of an enigma. There is no doubting his hockey expertise. He is a very good hockey-player. But as with the murmurs in Boston that he could not win a SC, those same murmurs followed him to SJ. JT is not a forceful player on the ice. His leadership skills have come into question as well. Look at last season’s collapse during the playoffs with the Kings. Both he and PM we NO where to be found. While his talents are unquestioned, he just does not deliver anywhere near a motivated, passionate game consistently. It has been frustrating to be a fan because it seemingly looks like he can certainly bet “motivated” whenever he plays for his country (Canada) but during the NHL season, he “shows up” for about 50% of the games. As a Sharks fan, I can only surmise if JT had an “attitude” Owen Nolan did (who showed me he wanted to win every game he played), he would have won a SC with the Sharks. While time is still open, I highly doubt he and PM will “ever” win a SC with the Sharks. PM has similar skillsets and attitude as JT. So, when viewing this trade, all sides have to be viewed. Bottom line, while the trade pans out for the Sharks, it could have been so much more valuable if JT was only more of a consistent, motivated player. My 2-cents.

    • Thornton is a beast on the ice and can be forceful. He is not consistently physical. His leadership skills obviously come into question and should. Thornton is motivated, he is not committed to playing physical hockey and when he does play physically he is an absolute beats. I think to say he shows up 50% of the time is grossly inaccurate and unfair. Thornton plays the game with passion, you can see it, he just does not set the tone physically every game., We cannot question people;’s passion and heart, they are playing a game that can quickly cause them serious problems later in life from the after effects. Only Joe knows why he cannot play physically on most nights, because when he does is at most times still the best player on the ice Marleau is not at the same level as Joe, never has been, he can score but it is clear to see Marleau is soft…very soft. Again tough to question a guy’s passion, but you look at Marleau and if you have never followed the sport you could get the impression the guy just does not care enough to want to win. Deep inside it might be burning but on the surface I do not think anyone gets that impression from him. With Joe, I think it is very obvious he competes at a high level and wants to win.

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